A team of neuroscientists have devised a new form of electroshock therapy, which apparently erases bad memories.
The Dutch neuroscientists came up with an electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which was designed to “target and disrupt patients’ memory of a disturbing episode.”
A group of 42 patients were shown two traumatic narratives in a slideshow and then given the ECT. The research team asked the patients to recall just one of the narratives by replaying part of the slideshow. Immediately after this exercise the patients were given the electroconvulsive therapy. It was done immediately because this is thought to be the time when the reactivated memory is at its most vulnerable.
A day later, the patients were given a multiple-choice memory test. The results showed that the patients were significantly worse at remembering details from the reactivated story, whereas the other story was easily recalled.
Electroconvulsive therapy is certainly not a pleasant experience, inducing seizures and has become a controversial topic. The patients selected to take part in the tests suffered from severe depression and it is not yet known whether these techniques would work for a patient without the same conditon.
For years scientists have been working on a way to erase bad memories. Last year, they successfully erased memories of sleeping mice and only a few months ago, they identified the gene responsible for helping us forget.
Now they have finally managed to find a way of erasing specific unwanted memories. But there is still more work and more research to be done. It is thought that this breakthrough will lead to future treatment of severe depression and post-traumatic distress.
[Image via io9]